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A coworker recommended this one, "Sword of Shannara" by Terry Brooks. It wasn't bad, but it is clearly a LOTR rip off. Shea is told by mysterious Druid Allanon that he is the last of the house of Shannara, and as such is the only one who can wield the sword to kill the coming Dark Lord. Shea and his adopted brother Flick set off to get the sword, gathering some friends along the way to help. Like I said, it wasn't bad, but I don't have any interest in finishing the rest of the books, either.

"True Hollywood Noir" by Dina Di Mambro was a bit of a waste of time, unfortunately. It was self-published and really could have benefited from some editing, there was a lot of needless repetition. All the information in the book was basically pulled from other books, TV shows, etc. Nothing really new.

"The Walking Dead: the Fall of the Governor Part 2" by Robert Kirkman was pretty good. Better than the show has been lately, sadly. Lilly Caul finds out she is pregnant and is determined to stand by the governor and make Woodbury a safe place. She ignores his ever increasing madness, but by the time Michonne is done with him it's hard to ignore his spiteful vengeance. Lilly covers for him with the rest of the town while he's recuperating, and eventually when Blake is back on his feet he starts planning an attack on the prison with Lilly acting as his right hand girl. Lilly suffers a miscarriage, and is more determined than ever to make the prison pay. The go out there, guns blazing, and some of the survivors escape, but not before Lilly shoots and kills Judith and Lori. When she realizes she's killed a mother and her baby, Lilly turns on the governor and takes him down. She and a small group of Woodbury residents survive and make it back to rebuild and hopefully make Woodbury a better place. I did like it, but that being said between this book and the first one "Fall of the Governor Part 1", seriously both books were way too long and totally unnecessary. Just seemed like they were trying to cash in on the popularity of the show.

"Nicholson" by Marc Eliot is a great bio about a great actor who has definitely lived an interesting life. Eliot pulls no punches in describing all of Jack's faults and bad moments. He has a bit of a snarky humor that made it really fun to read. 

Seriously, someone needs to stage an intervention and take my phone away from me. My reading output has gone way down since I got the thing. This is pathetic.

"Longbourn" by Jo Baker was a clever mix of "Pride and Prejudice" and "Downton Abbey". We get a look at Jane Austen's timeless characters from the servants point of view. It was neat, I enjoyed it.

"Growing Up Duggar" by Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar was a sweet but a bit too preachy (of course, what do you expect with them, right?) book of advice from the four oldest Duggar girls. I like the Duggars. It's nice to see a family that genuinely loves and respects each other. And if you are a Christian, this book had some good advice, I think.

"Man in the High Castle" by Philip K. Dick is one of those books that definitely benefits from multiple readings, I think. I don't think I quite got everything. I enjoyed it, but I have a feeling I missed a lot. It's an alternate reality history in which Japan and Germany win WW2 and split up the U.S.--Japan takes the west coast, Germany the east, and the middle is sort of neutral territory. Most of the book takes place on the west coast and looks at how different various sorts of people's lives are.

A lot of alternative history lately: "Dominion" by C. J. Sansom was a recommendation from Stephen King. It's about England a decade after surrendering to Germany in WW2. The resistance fighters are eager to keep a scientist out of Germany's hands because he knows America's secret to how they made an atomic bomb. It was really interesting and well written, and very scary to think how different life would be if only a few things in history had gone differently.

"Philomena" by Martin Sixsmith was a heartbreaking true story of young Philomena Lee, who is forced to give up her child for adoption in Ireland in the 1950s. It was a huge scandal, how the Catholic church was keeping these girls as slaves, making them work for years, and then selling their babies to America for adoption. Philomena's son, Anthony, is adopted by an American family, who change his name to Michael. Michael grew up desperate to know something about his mother, even traveling to Ireland in 1977 to see if he could find out some information. The nuns at the orphanage kept quiet, though, and didn't even tell him about his mother's brother, who lived very close by. Nor did they tell Philomena a few weeks later when she came, looking for him, that he had been by. Years later, Michael was dying of AIDS and made one final trip to Ireland to search for answers, to no avail. His last wish was that he be buried at the orphanage, so if his mother ever did come looking for him, she could visit his grave. Sadly, Michael died in 1995 and was buried there. Philomena kept her secret from her family until 2003, but by then it was too late. The long hoped for mother-son reunion took place in a cemetery, where Philomena was able to say goodbye to the son she didn't get the chance to know. The only bad thing I can say about this book was that it was very one sided, all Michael's story. It would have been lovely to have a bit more of Philomena's story, but it was still good.

I  needed a laugh, it's been a tough week (I got braces again--for the third time, ugh) so I read Jen Lancaster's latest, "Twisted Sisters". I had the pleasure of meeting Jen at a book signing last month, and she was so lovely and gracious and took the time to talk to everyone and took pictures with us. She read a chapter from the book and had us all rocking with laughter. She's just as hilarious in person as you would imagine. My sister, Jen went with me and she enjoyed meeting her as well. Anyway, "Twisted Sisters" was very funny. Reagan Bishop is an overachiever, and has always criticized her sisters for their lack of ambition. Reagan is a psychologist for a small cable network TV show called "Push". When her show is sold to a major network, there are big changes. Now Reagan only has one afternoon to work with her patient, and she's terrified of failing on national TV and earning the scorn of her family. So she turns to new Age healer Deva, who comes up with a way for Reagan to switch bodies with her patients during the crucial moment, film the breakthrough for the camera, and then switch back. Reagan hates doing this, because she genuinely does want to help these people, but she wants to succeed even more, so she goes along with it. All is going well until her boss (who she has a secret crush on) hires her sister Geri to replace the hair stylist. Everyone immediately takes to Geri, and Reagan is jealous. She takes advantage of Deva's switching abilities to inhabit her sister's body, so she can figure out why everyone likes her better. Poor Reagan. I really felt bad for her. She didn't seem like such a horrible person. A bit tightly wound, perhaps, but not as bad as all that. And her family really did seem awfully mean to her for no reason. But while inhabiting Geri's body she learns a lot of truths about herself and vows to make changes. Good for her! I enjoyed this one a lot, and it gave me the laughs I  needed.

Robert Kirkman continues the survivors painful journey in "Walking Dead Vol. 19: March to War". I honestly don't know why I keep reading them. More of the same: the survivors are gearing up to go against the current big bad, Negan. More people die. There's a guy with a tiger who is sweet on Michonne. Yeah, I don't even know anymore...

"Last of the Blue and the Gray" by Richard A. Serrano was very interesting, about the last survivors from the Civil War on both the Confederate and Union sides. A lot of veterans lived past 100, but many of them faked their service during the Great Depression in order to get a pension. Records of who served were spotty, especially in the South, and a lot of them ended up getting a pension even though Census records later proved some of them were born just before the war and were much too young to serve. Sorting out the real vets from the fake ones is quite a daunting challenge. No one wants to call a dying old man a liar, after all.

"Deadly" by Sara Shepard was really good. Maybe the last one for now? It's so hard to tell. It looks like the girls are being extradited to Jamaica for killing Tabitha Clark after Ali sends the news a video she faked of them beating Tabitha to death. The girls trust Agent Fuji and turn everything over to her, which Fuji then uses against them. I thought maybe Fuji was in on it, but maybe not. Shepard is so good at the red herring thing. In the end, Ali lures the girls to the basement of a house near Hanna's dad's campaign headquarters, and pumps cyanide in the room, with the help of Nick, who was in the Preserve with her and is "helper A", as the girls have been referring to him. When things go bad and Emily gets Nick's gun and turns on Ali, she creates a distraction and is able to slip away again. The girls are exonerated when Nick is arrested, but Ali vows revenge...someday.

"Hollow City" is the sequel to "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs. I really enjoyed the first one, and this one was great, too. It amazes me how he's able to incorporate these old, bizarre photos seamlessly into the story. The children have rescued Miss Peregrine, who is stuck in bird form, from the wights and are searching for another ymbryne to help her return to her human state. All the other ymbrynes have been kidnapped, though, until the kids get a lead on Miss Wren, who is hiding out in London. They finally do find Miss Wren, but when she changes the bird back to human it's not Miss Peregrine but her evil brother, Caul. He and the other wights take the children and Miss Wren captive, but they manage to escape and end up in Jacob's present day. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out!

"June Bug" by Chris Fabry was a little too sentimental for my taste. June Bug lives with her dad on the road: they criss cross the nation in an old, broken down RV. They meet a lot of super nice (read: unrealistic) people who help them out, perfectly willing to take complete strangers into their home, feed them, clothe them, offer to adopt June Bug, etc. Anyway, at a Walmart in Colorado June Bug sees a missing child poster for Natalie Edwards, and realizes it's her. She starts pestering her "dad", Johnson, and we eventually learn that Johnson saved Natalie when her real mother tried to have her killed. He held onto her because she gave *him* a reason to live. I think I'm too cynical to be charmed by books like these.

"I'll Take Care of You" is another amazing true crime read from Caitlin Rother. A wealthy Newport Beach inventor, Bill McLaughlin, throws over his wife for a hot young piece he meets in a singles column, who then proceeds to steal from him and cheat on him with a hot young guy. So when Bill is murdered, the police immediately suspect his decades younger girlfriend, Nanette, and her boyfriend Eric. It took the police and the DA's office 17 years to prosecute, but in the end they were both found guilty. Good. Men, let this be a lesson to you. Poor Bill learned the hard way.

"Carthage" by Joyce Carol Oates was as usual deeply disturbing. Cressida Mayfield has always been odd, the "smart one" to older sister Juliet, the "pretty one". Juliet gets engaged to Brett Kincaid, who enlists after 9/11 and comes back injured from Afghanistan. He breaks off his engagement to Juliet and becomes strange, different. Cressida has always had a secret crush on Brett, and when he comes back changed, she thinks this is her chance, since now they are both different. But when she doesn't come home after sneaking out to meet Brett at a bar, all eyes of the town turn to him with suspicion. Brett at first denies having hurt Cressida, but later confesses to murdering her and burying her body. Seven years later in Florida, we meet Sabbath McSwain, who is really Cressida Mayfield. After Brett rejected her, she ran away from home and ended up working for a professor. When he takes her to a prison and she goes inside a death chamber, Cressida realizes she needs to go back home to make things right. Very twisted, but good.

"Hollywood Hellraisers" by Robert Sellers was great fun. Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, and Warren Beatty all raised hell and had a great time doing it. It's honestly a miracle any of them survived for as long as they did.

"Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell was so charming and awesome. Cath and Wren are twins, and off to college. Cath wants to room with Wren while Wren is eager to break away from her twin and pursue her own identity. For years the girls have collaborated on a fanfiction based on a popular bestselling book series very similar to Harry Potter. Cath continues the fanfiction, which takes up a lot of her life and almost makes her miss out on a chance to fall in love with Levi. It was really great.

I have mixed feelings about "Lookaway, Lookaway" by Wilton Barnhardt. I liked parts of it, but some of it wasn't so good. It was very similar to "The Sound and the Fury" by William Faulkner (and he mentions Faulkner many times) in looking at a decaying Southern family told from varying points of view from different family members, and ending with the point of view of a friend of the family who is African American. Not a single character was completely likeable, but that's pretty realistic: everyone has faults. Still, I don't know. I just didn't care for how hard and mean everyone ended up being.

Speaking of Faulkner--I visited Rowan Oak this weekend. It was incredible, and I'm still in shock I think :)


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